When my anxiety takes over, I feel paralyzed. Being productive at work and managing tasks at home become nearly impossible. The frustrating lesson that I learned a long time ago was that the world wouldn't stop for me when I am anxious.
I try my best to push through my anxiety so I can continue to make a living and take care of my basic needs. Despite my best efforts, I end up making decisions out of fear — and fear-based decisions are often poor decisions. Also, I have trouble letting my guard down and allowing myself to be vulnerable, which maintains an emotional wall between me and the people I love most.
Several years ago, my anxiety had taken over my life. The thought of how I would get through each day put me into a state of panic. I was always worried that nothing would ever work out well for me and only bad things would happen.
One day a good friend took the time to share some of his skills for coping with anxiety. Toward the end of our conversation, he clenched his fist tightly and held it out in front of me. He then asked me to use every ounce of strength I had to open his fingers and unclench the fist. I proceeded to try to open his clenched fist with all of my strength and focus.
After a few minutes, I had no luck and gave up. He then released his fingers, and the palm of his hand appeared. It looked as if he was ready to receive something.
He said, “If you are always gripping onto things in your mind, you will never be able to receive all of the gifts, opportunities, and blessings life has to offer.”
Those words touched my heart, and I decided to learn about the art of trusting life. I have been practicing it for years now, and it has dramatically changed my experience with anxiety.
Please note that this practice hasn’t made my condition disappear. It has, however, made it much more manageable and given me the freedom to enjoy life. If you live with anxiety, I want you to have freedom, too.
You will learn the art of trusting life in a way that is unique to you. For some people, it's called faith. For others, it's called "letting go." For me, it's called detachment.
According to Deepak Chopra in his bestselling book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, “In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty… in the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom from our past, from the known, which is the prison of past conditioning. And in our willingness to step into the unknown, the field of all possibilities, we surrender ourselves to the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.”
Here are some steps for learning to trust life:
Pay attention to your anxious feelings and write them down in a journal. Write as many details as you can about what makes you feel anxious. You may need to do this throughout the day.
Be brutally honest with yourself about what is holding you back and what you are mentally gripping in your mind. An example of this is not going to a job interview because of a fear of rejection.
Take one small step to get out of your comfort zone and run toward something that you are feeling anxious about each day. Reflect on the outcome and write about the experience in your journal.
In addition to the steps above, Deepak Chopra offers three guidelines that you can apply to practice detachment. I'll quote them here:
Today I will commit myself to detachment. I will allow myself and those around me the freedom to be as they are. I will not rigidly impose my idea of how things should be. I will not force solutions on problems, thereby creating new problems. I will participate in everything with detached involvement.
Today I will factor in uncertainty as an essential ingredient of my experience. In my willingness to accept uncertainty, solutions will spontaneously emerge out of the problem, out of the confusion, disorder, and chaos. The more uncertain things seem to be, the more secure I will feel, because uncertainty is my path to freedom. Through the wisdom of uncertainty, I will find my security.
- I will step into the field of all possibilities and anticipate the excitement that can occur when I remain open to an infinity of choices. When I step into the field of all possibilities, I will experience all the fun, adventure, magic, and mystery of life.
The art of learning to trust life is still a challenge for me. In fact, I fail at it on most days. On the days that I fail, I make it a point to forgive myself and commit to trying again the next day. It may not seem like much progress, but over time, this has allowed me to experience more joy and happiness.
Remember that this is a new art for you to explore. Like any new art form that you pursue, it requires new skills. These skills take time and consistent effort, and you'll experience setbacks. But chances are very, very good that, after a while, you will establish new and healthy habits.
Mike Veny is one of America’s leading mental health speakers and a high energy corporate drumming event facilitator. He delivers educational, engaging, and entertaining presentations to meetings and conferences throughout the world. Mike is fiercely committed to wellness, suicide prevention, and helping people work together more smoothly. Mental Illness is An Asset, his compelling TEDx talk, has been used in college classrooms and received sensational reviews.